The Denver Broncos final 53-man roster is set and stone, leaving just the Carolina Panthers as the most immediate obstacle in Denver's way. The 53 men that will prepare to take on the NFC Champions in four days are as follows:
None of the players you see above should shock you. The Broncos telegraphed many of these moves ahead of time by way of playing time in the preseason, press conferences, and the like. However, there's still a few things that can be gleaned by taking a closer look and reading between the lines of this roster.
Money Over Experience
The Broncos have essentially tipped their hand as to what philosophy they've adopted in constructing a roster this offseason. In several instances, they opted to keep a player with a lower cap hit (and perhaps higher upside) rather than a player who's already shown he can succeed in the NFL.
The first instance; Riley Dixon over Britton Colquitt. The writing for this move was more or less on the wall when the Broncos spent a late draft pick on the Syracuse punter last spring. Dixon has ranged from solid, to inconsistent, to downright offensive at times in the preseason. In the end, John Elway and company decided the veteran punter wasn't worth the $3.25 million they could save by letting him walk. And walk he did, all the way to Cleveland.
It's a little bit terrifying knowing that an unknown quantity will be trotting out on fourth downs less than a week from now. One of the major reasons the Broncos prevailed the last time they played Carolina was because they controlled field position. Dixon makes that proposition a little bit shaky.
The second instance; Kapri Bibbs over Ronnie Hillman. This one was a bit of a head-scratcher to me. By no means is Hillman a lead back in a high-powered ground game, but he provides a lot of value as a satellite back catching passes and taking tosses, stretches, and counters outside the hash marks.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p...Again, it looks like the Broncos, who are paying C.J. Anderson probably more than should be, needed better value at the position, especially at the third string. Bibbs is a similar-type player, even a little more powerful, and comes at a fraction of the price. Hillman is the better player, but Bibbs could potentially be a bargain if he out-produces his contract.
There's also the narrative that Bibbs provides more on special teams than Hillman, but if special teams was really that a big of a factor in the running back decision, Juwan Thompson would have made this team.
The third instance; Austin Davis over Mark Sanchez. This makes more sense. You just can't pay a third-string quarterback $4.5 million in addition to surrendering a seventh-round pick. Sanchez, got a little bit of a raw deal this preseason after a disastrous ten or so minutes against the 49ers, but he'll land on his feet with the Dallas Cowboys.
For what it's worth, Davis was a better option than T.J. Yates. Like Sanchez, people like to point to Yates' postseason victory in 2011, but that's about where his resume begins and ends. Davis has shown promise with egregious surrounding talent on the 2014 Rams and the 2015 Browns. He also holds most of the passing records at Southern Miss, and, unlike Brett Favre, could tell you what a nickel defense is.
The Broncos boast such tremendous depth that they had no choice but to let a few promising undrafted players dangle around on waivers for a while. It's a good problem to have, but it's also an unfortunate reality when talented guys won't be able to suit up on game day.
Some of those guys include Vontarrius Dora, Henry Krieger-Coble, Justin Murray, Mose Frazier, Kalif Raymond, and Lars Hanson. We'll dig into the practice squad later, but on a cursory level, there's immense talent that had to be cast aside in favor of veterans.
Of these few players, the one that surprised me most was Henry Krieger-Coble. HKC has made the practice squad, but I expected him to make the roster as a fourth tight end, especially considering the injury concerns with Jeff Heuerman. The Broncos opted to stick with John Phillips, who is admittedly a better blocker and an adequate receiver.
Especially early in training camp, Raymond was expected to make the roster as a kick-return specialist. Instead, Cody Latimer will handle kickoffs and Jordan Norwood will reprise his role in the punt-return game. Raymond was pretty ineffective outside of a 41-yard return against Arizona, so it's not altogether surprising that he could leapfrog two vets.
Frazier sticking around was expected. Like when the Broncos hung onto Gerell Robinson when they were grooming Brent Osweiler, Frazier is worth keeping primarily because of his chemistry with Paxton Lynch, but also because he proved it in camp and in the preseason, leading the team with 10 receptions.
It's really too bad that there's only 53 spots to be handed out, because each of these guys would add to the Broncos depth this season. Maybe a few of them will get their chance in the future.
Both the defensive and offensive line don't quite match what we may have envisioned in the offseason.
The right guard position in particular stands out like a swollen thumb. At this time, you may be hyperventilating at the sight of Michael Schofield in a starting role. Take a deep breath and set the paper bag down. Schofield is probably not suited to play right tackle (except for in a pinch), but he may have been one of Denver's best offensive lineman this preseason, filling in at both left tackle and right guard.
One of the most blessed human functions is the capacity to forgive, and that's what we should do with Schofield. Gary Kubiak certainly has, as evidenced by this depth chart. The Michigan product might have just lack the skills to handle the right tackle (where most premiere edge rushers launch from these days), but he can handle guard where he doesn't have to be quite as quick on his feet.
On the opposite side, there are a couple other surprises. A couple days ago, Kyle Peko was about an inch from the waiver wire until the Broncos brass reconsidered and gave him the third spot at nose tackle. It's always nice to see an undrafted rookie overcome the odds and make the 53, and Peko earned that honor. Expect him to get a few snaps here and there as Wade rotates the line.
The Broncos also made the move to let go of veteran Henry Melton, who they had previously signed just a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Billy Winn, who adds a ton of versatility on the defensive line, becomes the eventual replacement for Vance Walker's roster spot, which was the original plan before Melton's arrival.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.